International relations

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Smithsonian Channel Programming Head David Royle to Step Down

Smithsonian Channel programming boss David Royle is set to step down from his post at the ViacomCBS network at the end of the year, TheWrap has confirmed.

The news comes days after former “PBS NewsHour” producer James F. Blue III was appointed as the new head of the network.

A veteran Smithsonian executive over more nearly 15 years, Royle most recently served as executive vice president, programming and production. He oversaw the commissioning, acquiring and co-producing of series, specials and features for the network.

Also Read: James F Blue III Named Head of ViacomCBS' Smithsonian Channel

His exit follows that of former Smithsonian Networks president Tom Hayden, who stepped down earlier this year amid layoffs of other high-level executives as a result of the ViacomCBS merger. Blue will take oversight of content creation and all related experiential and event programming, reporting jointly to Nina L. Diaz and Chris McCarthy, Chief Creative Officer and President of MTV Entertainment Group, respectively.

Prior to joining Smithsonian Networks, Royle served as executive vice president of production for National Geographic, serving as executive producer on the network’s multi-Emmy Award winning “Explorer” series.

He also previously worked independent filmmaker in New York on titles such as Hedrick Smith’s groundbreaking examination of the fall of the Soviet Union, “Inside Gorbachev’s USSR”; PBS’s “Senator Sam” about the Watergate Senator Sam Ervin; “Assignment Africa” about the need to improve media coverage of Africa; and the 52-part A&E series about the Cold War “The Eagle & The Bear.”

Deadline first reported the news of Royle’s exit.

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Oscars International Entries Are Close to New Record, But Voters Can’t See Them All Yet

Even in a year in which worldwide theater closings made releasing movies difficult if not impossible, the Oscars race for Best International Feature Film is close to achieving a record number of entries.

With the deadline for submissions passing on Dec. 1, 90 countries have either announced their Oscar submissions or had those submissions reported in the press. One additional film, from Saudi Arabia, is in the Academy screening room devoted to the category.

The 91 entries would be one shy of the record 92 films that competed in what was then called the Best Foreign Language Film category in 2017.

But we don’t know if additional countries beyond those 91 have submitted films but not made their selections public. Typically, a handful of countries fall into that category; nations that have entered films in at least four of the last five years but have not announced submissions this year are Afghanistan, Australia, Cambodia, Nepal and the United Kingdom.

Also Read: Oscars International Entries, 2020: The Complete List So Far

Last year, Afghanistan’s entry was deemed ineligible because of questions about the legitimacy of the committee that submitted it. It’s also possible that some of this year’s 90 announced films will end up not qualifying, though the International Feature Film Award Executive Committee may well be unlikely to disqualify anything in a year of rule changes designed to accommodate the difficulty of releasing movies during a pandemic. (Still, there are submitted films with questions about release dates or the amount of English dialogue they contain.)

Normally, the Academy releases the list of qualifying films about a week after the submission deadline. But it was embarrassed last year when it unveiled a record list of 93 contenders and then had to backtrack when the Nigerian and Austrian entries were found not to qualify because their dialogue was more than 50% English.

This year, AMPAS will likely wait until late January, after the submissions have been fully vetted, to reveal the list of qualifying films. And while it would normally have contacted voters by now with a calendar of screenings for all the eligible films, with pandemic restrictions those screenings can’t take place. And as of mid-December, the Academy had only made 30 of the 90 films available in the members-only online screening room devoted to the international category, so those 30 are the only ones that have been officially announced.

“Additional films are currently being tested by our Quality Assurance team and will be released throughout the month of December,” said a Dec. 11 email from AMPAS to members who had volunteered to take place in phase-one voting. At that point, 16 films were in the screening room; on Dec. 17, an additional 14 were added.

Also Read: After 'Parasite' and 'Roma,' What Can the Oscars International Race Do for an Encore?

Films that are so far missing from the international screening room include some of the most high-profile contenders, among them Greece’s “Apples,” Italy’s “Notturno,” Spain’s “The Endless Trench,” France’s “Two of Us” and Israel’s “Asia.”

In contrast to previous years in which first-round voting was restricted to Los Angeles-based members who attended screenings, this year’s initial round is open to all members anywhere in the world who view enough of the eligible films in the Academy screening room. (Last year, you had to see 12 to vote.)

Theoretically, that could enable far more people to vote in a category thought to have low participation, and it could skew the votes toward international voters rather than L.A.-based ones. But the lack of physical screenings, which doubled as social events and helped spread the buzz that would drive voters to see certain films, could depress voting among the SoCal stalwarts who made up the “general committee” and whose ballots choose seven of the 10 films on the category’s shortlist.

Also Read: Oscars International Race Heats Up as Heavy Hitters Enter the Race

And with the full slate of eligible films appearing in the screening room on a staggered basis, will voters stick to a steady schedule of viewing even if the films they want to see aren’t on the platform yet? (Granted, the availability of films was even more spread out when they could only be seen at screenings.)

When the shortlist is announced on Feb. 9, sharp-eyed watchers of the category will probably be able to surmise whether the usual L.A. committee dominated the balloting or whether international voters took charge — but we won’t know whether the number of voters has increased or decreased in this unusual year, because the Academy doesn’t reveal that kind of thing.

Here is the list of films whose countries have announced their submissions. Inclusion on this list does not guarantee that a film will be deemed eligible, though in most years all but one or two make the cut. And while this list falls two shy of tying the record, it’s definitely possible that some stealth candidates will help 2020 set a new high.

TheWrap’s list of Best International Features Film contenders, with descriptions and links to trailers, is here.

Films that are in the AMPAS International Feature Film screening room are in bold.

Albania: Open Door
Algeria: Heliopolis
Argentina: The Sleepwalkers
Armenia: Songs of Solomon
Austria: What We Wanted
Bangladesh: Sincerely Yours, Dhaka
Belarus: Persian Lessons
Belgium: Working Girls
Bhutan: Luanana: A Yak in the Classroom
Bolivia: Chaco
Bosnia & Herzegovina: Quo Vadis, Aida?
Brazil: Babenco: Tell Me When I Die
Bulgaria: The Father
Canada: Funny Boy
Chile: The Mole Agent
China: Leap
Colombia: Forgotten We’ll Be
Costa Rica: Land of Ashes
Croatia: Extracurricular
Czech Republic: Charlatan
Denmark: Another Round
Dominican Republic: A State of Madness
Ecuador: Emptiness
Egypt: When We’re Born
Estonia: The Last Ones
Finland: Tove
France: Two of Us
Georgia: Beginning
Germany: And Tomorrow the Entire World
Greece: Apples
Guatemala: La Llorona
Hong Kong: Better Days
Hungary: Preparations to Be Together for an Unknown Period of Time
Iceland: Agnes Joy
India: Jallikattu
Indonesia: Impetiogore
Iran: Sun Children
Ireland: Arracht
Israel: Asia
Italy: Notturno
Ivory Coast: Night of the Kings
Japan: True Mothers
Jordan: 200 Meters
Kazakhstan: The Crying Steppe
Kenya: The Letter
Kosovo: Exile
Kyrgyzstan: Running to the Sky
Latvia: Blizzard of Souls
Lebanon: Broken Keys
Lesotho: This Is Not a Burial, It’s a Resurrection
Lithuania: Nova Lituania
Luxembourg: River Tales
Malaysia: Roh
Mexico: I’m No Longer Here
Montenegro: Breasts
Morocco: The Unknown Saint
Netherlands: Bulado
Nigeria: The Milkmaid
North Macedonia: Willow
Norway: Hope
Pakistan: Zingagi Tamasha
Palestine: Gaza, Mon Amour
Panama: Causa Justa
Paraguay: Killing the Dead
Peru: Song Without a Name
Philippines: Mindanao
Poland: Never Gonna Snow Again
Portugal: Listen
Romania: Collective
Russia: Dear Comrades!
Saudi Arabia: Scales

Serbia: Dara in Jasenovac
Singapore: Wet Season
Slovakia: The Auschwitz Report
Slovenia: Stories From the Chestnut Woods
South Africa: Toorbos
South Korea: The Man Standing Next
Spain: The Endless Trench
Sudan: You Will Die at 20
Suriname: Wiren
Sweden: Charter
Switzerland: My Little Sister
Taiwan: A Sun
Thailand: Happy Old Year
Tunisia: The Man Who Sold His Skin
Turkey: Miracle in Cell No. 7
Ukraine: Atlantis
Uruguay: Alell
Uzbekistan: 2000 Songs of Farida
Venezuela: Once Upon a Time in Venezuela
Vietnam: Dreamy Eyes

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‘The Queen’s Gambit’ Is Netflix’s Most-Watched Scripted Limited Series

“The Queen’s Gambit” is Netflix’s biggest scripted limited series, according to the streaming service, with 62 million households watching within its first 28 days.

Netflix counts a view whenever someone watches at least two uninterrupted minutes of a show or movie. The series, which stars Anya Taylor-Joy as chess prodigy Beth Harmon, is on Netflix’s Top 10 list in 92 different countries was the top show in 63 countries, including the U.K., Argentina, Israel and South Africa.

“The Queen’s Gambit” is based on Walter Tevis’ 1983 novel. It debuted on Oct. 23. Among all limited series, only the docuseries “Tiger King” had more viewers, with 64 million households tuning in within its first 28 weeks earlier this year.

Also Read: Could 'GLOW' Get a Movie? 'Don't Hold Your Breath,' Alison Brie Says

Netflix says that since the show’s premiere, interest in the centuries-old board game has skyrocketed. Google search queries for chess have doubled while searches for “how to play chess” have hit a nine-year peak. “The conversation around the show has also led to significantly higher interest in next year’s World Championship, according to the International Chess Federation,” Peter Friedlander, vice president of original series, wrote in a blog post on Monday.

“The Queen’s Gambit” is a coming-of-age story that explores the true cost of genius. Abandoned and entrusted to a Kentucky orphanage in the late 1950s, a young Beth Harmon (Taylor-Joy) discovers an astonishing talent for chess while developing an addiction to tranquilizers provided by the state as a sedative for the children. Haunted by her personal demons and fueled by a cocktail of narcotics and obsession, Beth transforms into an impressively skilled and glamorous outcast while determined to conquer the traditional boundaries established in the male-dominated world of competitive chess.

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Mike Africa Jr Seeks to Free His Parents in ’40 Years a Prisoner’ Trailer (Exclusive Video)

Mike Africa Jr., the son of two MOVE members imprisoned for the death of a police officer during a 1978 Philadelphia police raid, spent decades trying to free his parents, a struggle depicted in the documentary “40 Years a Prisoner.” Watch the trailer above.

“When I learned that they were actually in prison, I might have been 13 years old, I started looking for something that would show their innocence,” says Africa Jr. “I wound up doing that for over 25 years.”

The documentary will debut on Tuesday, Dec. 8 on HBO and HBO MAX. “40 years a Prisoner” was an official selection and special presentation of the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival.

“40 Years a Prisoner” chronicles the 1978 Philadelphia police raid on the radical back-to-nature group MOVE and the aftermath that led to a son’s decades-long fight to free his parents. The documentary illuminates the story of a city grappling with racial tension and police brutality with alarming topicality and modern-day relevance.

Also Read: Michael B Jordan's Social Justice Now Film Festival Reveals Inaugural Lineup With 'Us Kids,' '40 Years a Prisoner'

The story centers on Mike Africa Jr., who commits his life to fighting for the release of his parents who he has only known through prison walls. The documentary features eyewitness accounts and archival footage of the escalating tension that results in the controversial confrontation between police and MOVE members.

“40 Years a Prisoner” was directed, produced and shot by Tommy Oliver (“1982”) through his company, Confluential Films, with original music by The Roots. The film was executive produced by Derek Dudley, and Shelby Stone for Freedom Road Productions, John Legend, Mike Jackson, and Ty Stiklorius for Get Lifted Film Co., and Keith Gionet and Adam Platzner for Confluential Films. The film was edited by Joe Kehoe and Tommy Oliver.

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Can Johnny Depp Bounce Back From ‘Modern-Day Scarlet Letter’ of UK Court’s ‘Wife Beater’ Ruling?

Johnny Depp has shattered his reputation — putting what one crisis PR expert called a “modern-day scarlet letter” on his personal brand — after a British judge on Monday shot down his libel suit against the Sun and ruled that the tabloid’s claim that the star was a “wife beater” was “substantially true.”

“This is a terrible day for self-deluded prima donnas in Hollywood who are out of touch with reality and believe that they could will their own vision of reality to judgment,” Eric Schiffer, leading international expert in reputation, brand and political strategy and chairman of Patriarch Organization and, told TheWrap. Describing Monday’s ruling as a “body blow” to the actor that will be a “precursor of further carnage to Depp,” he added, “This is a modern-day scarlet letter across Johnny’s brand and he’s going to need to deal with this through making amends.”

Evan Nierman, founder of crisis management firm Red Banyan, agreed: “Rehabilitating his image is going to be much harder than it would’ve been before going into court.”

Also Read: Johnny Depp Loses UK Libel Suit, 'Wife Beater' Claim Called 'Substantially True'

Amber Heard and Johnny Depp in 2015 (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

Experts agree that the PR damage from the ruling is likely to hurt Depp’s reputation in Hollywood — at least in the near term — at a time when his box office power has steadily waned.

Depp is currently shooting a supporting role in the third installment of J.K. Rowling’s “Fantastic Beasts” series, and has completed work on the MGM drama “Minamata.” He is also a spokesmodel for Dior’s Sauvage fragrance. Warner Bros. has plans for additional “Fantastic Beasts” installments but it’s unknown if Depp’s character, Grindelwald, will continue beyond the upcoming film.

But he has no known acting projects lined up after that. Reps for the actor, Dior and Warner Bros. did not respond to requests for comment.

The actor’s star power had already been tarnished by his short-lived marriage to Amber Heard, whose accusations of physical abuse became tabloid fodder after their divorce in 2017. But experts called his decision to pursue legal action against both Heard and news outlets — including a still-ongoing $50 million libel lawsuit against the Washington Post — a tactical and PR mistake.

“From the beginning, Depp, for whatever reason, felt like he needed to take this dramatic step of going to the British high court,” Nierman said. “He presumed being labeled a ‘wife beater’ was beyond the pale and for whatever reason, he decided to put his foot down. The risk that he was running was making things potentially worse for himself. Now the entire world knows the details about this relationship he had — he put himself squarely in the spotlight and amplified it more than it would’ve been if he just had left it alone … Now that he’s lost, he has cemented in everyone’s mind the very allegations he was hoping to be exonerated of.”

Also Read: Johnny Depp Ordered to Be Deposed in $50 Million Amber Heard Defamation Case

Justice Andrew Nicol affirmed the Sun’s description of the star as a “wife beater” and ordered the actor to pay all court costs in the case: “I have found that the great majority of alleged assaults of Ms. Heard by Mr. Depp have been proved to the civil standard.”

Nicol’s decision “ratified the reality of the charges leveled against him, but the massive damage to his persona had largely had been done,” Schiffer said. “This just adds credibility to what people had assumed had happened under the dumpster fire of allegations. Being named a ‘wife-beater’ in entertainment torches the possibility of him working in multimillion-dollar projects.”

In fact, Nierman said that calling attention to Heard’s accusations — and then losing his court case — may have made it even harder to secure future roles, especially in family-friendly franchises like “Pirates of the Caribbean” that made him a superstar.

“There is going to be an outcry,” he said. “He’s basically given them the rope to hang him with.”

What’s worse, Depp’s days as a major box office draw have long been in decline. Since his debut in “A Nightmare on Elm Street” in 1984, films starring Depp have grossed over $10 billion at the global box office. This includes three billion-dollar hits: “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” in 2006, “Alice in Wonderland” in 2010, and “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” in 2011.

Also Read: Johnny Depp Settles Legal Battle With Former Law Firm Bloom Hergott for 8 Figure Sum

“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” (Disney)

But since the release of “On Stranger Tides,” Depp’s box office numbers have receded. Only two films since then have grossed over $400 million worldwide: “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” in 2017 and “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” in 2018 — where he had only a glorified cameo.

While Depp may struggle to land big roles in the near term, few expect him to be exiled forever.

“When it comes to movies and celebrities, we have a short memory, and we also want to root for our favorite actors. If you are talented, they are going to just look the other way, sadly,” Mark Macias, founder of PR firm Macias PR, said. “I don’t think it’s going to hurt him that much.”

Nierman agreed: “Celebrities often times get a pass, especially ones who have a reputation for being wild-mannered rock and rollers… He’s such a great actor and iconic character that he gets a pass from the American public.”

Depp has the advantage of longevity in the Hollywood spotlight. “When you have a long-lasting iconic brand, it takes a lot to bring down a big ship. He’s a big ship, with a lot of franchises behind him, that’s a brand that’s instilled in us,” Macias said. “That’s why Hollywood probably won’t give up on him.”

Also Read: Johnny Depp Settles Legal Battle With Former Law Firm Bloom Hergott for 8 Figure Sum

Going forward, the experts advise Depp to keep a low profile and consider a treatment program for alcohol or substance abuse — in the London case, Heard testified that Depp turned into a violent version of himself after consuming drugs and alcohol that she said he called the “Monster.”

“Because he’s such a beloved actor, he has a chance to unbury himself,” Schiffer said. “It’s up to Depp to be transparent and make peace and show how he’s working to enlighten his behavior with greater controls to regrow trust and that’s all demonstrating regret about his past behaviors through careful admissions.”

Depp is in a precarious position given the nature of the charges, especially in the #MeToo era — and his continued legal fights to clear his name. “He needs to accept partial blame on this, and project more empathy,” Macias said. “The worst thing he can do is go in hiding or issue a statement, because a statement is only one-sided. Also, don’t attack Amber and instead talk about the positives, ‘Here’s what I learned from this.’ Don’t use the ‘I’ll go to therapy’ because that’s lost its value now.”

Nierman acknowledged the challenges. “He’s got to strike the right balance of not being dismissive, he said.

Finally, the experts agreed that any public rehabilitation will require Depp to keep out of further legal trouble. “He needs to make sure he will never be accused like this again — that includes fighting in the bar or anything that reinforces the anger that can’t be controlled,” Macias said. “Where he is now, it’s bad. He’s in a tough situation.”

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Sony Pictures Hit With Layoffs in Reorganization of Film, TV Marketing

Layoffs hit Sony Pictures Entertainment as the studio announced on Tuesday it would be merging its theatrical, home entertainment, and television distribution marketing teams, while Andre Caraco is stepping down from his post as co-president of Global Marketing.Josh Greenstein, president of Sony Pictures Motion Picture Group, and Keith Le Goy, president of networks and distribution at Sony Pictures Television, announced the merger in an email to staff members.

“While I understand Andre’s decision that this is the right time personally for him to move on, the company and I myself will miss him hugely,” says Sony Pictures Motion Picture Group Chairman Tom Rothman in a statement to TheWrap. “He is a superior executive. His smarts, insight, experience and enthusiasm make him an exceptional colleague and a gifted film maven. He is, also, a true class act. I join everyone here in expressing our gratitude and wishing him joy.”

With the restructure, 35 staffers were laid off in the distribution and marketing units, according to an individual with knowledge of the situation.

Under the restructure, the new marketing group will be run by Paul Noble and Danielle Misher, Co-Heads of Global Theatrical Marketing, along with Lexine Wong, Head of Global Multichannel Distribution Marketing. They will report to Greenstein and Le Goy.

As the lines blur between theatrical and streaming, Sony becomes the first major movie studio the consolidate the distribution and marketing divisions. Sony is also the latest studio to impose layoffs as the coronavirus pandemic has upended moviegoing and theaters remained closed. Disney, NBCUniversal, and Warnermedia have made similar layoffs.

Greenstein and Le Goy wrote in the memo that the merging “will allow for better coordination and enable us to apply the collective expertise of our teams across all platforms throughout each title’s lifecycle, and to respond cohesively to new and emerging release patterns.”

Read the memo from Greenstein and Le Goy below.

Also Read: Sony Pictures Reports Profit of $230 Million for Q1

Dear Colleagues:

We want to inform you of some important structural changes taking place in our marketing and distribution operations in Motion Pictures and Television. Moving forward, we will be combining our theatrical, home entertainment and television distribution marketing teams in the U.S. and adopting a regional model for both businesses internationally. This will allow for better coordination and enable us to apply the collective expertise of our teams across all platforms throughout each title’s lifecycle, and to respond cohesively to new and emerging release patterns.

The changes represent an important step in further integrating and streamlining our businesses across the studio and will strengthen our marketing and distribution capabilities in today’s rapidly changing marketplace.

In the U.S., our new centralized marketing group will be run by Paul Noble and Danielle Misher, Co-Heads of Global Theatrical Marketing, along with Lexine Wong, Head of Global Multichannel Distribution Marketing. Paul, Danielle and Lexine will now have a dual report to both of us and will handle marketing across all production labels.

Internationally, we will be combining our film marketing and distribution teams into the regional model that currently exists in our television distribution and networks business. Regional heads, who will be named shortly for Western Europe, CEEMA (Central, Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa), Latin America and Asia Pacific will report to both Steven O’Dell, President International Distribution for MPG, and Mike Wald, EVP International Distribution and Networks. Country leaders in those territories will report into the respective regional head. Over the next several months, Mike and Steven will partner with the regional leaders to determine the most effective structure for their region. Steven and Mike will have a dual report to both of us.

The following leaders will also now have a dual report to both of us:

Flory Bramnick, Executive Vice President, Distribution for North America Television & Ad Sales
Jason Spivak, Executive Vice President, Distribution for North America Television & Home Entertainment
Paul Littmann, Executive Vice President, Distribution for Global
Adrian Smith, President, Domestic Distribution for Theatrical
Jamie Stevens, Executive Vice President, Worldwide Consumer Products
Jeffrey Godsick, Executive Vice President, Brand Strategy and Global Partnerships (across all windows)

Our own reporting lines will not change, but we will be working very closely together on these matters.

The company has considered for some time combining these operations to create better efficiencies and tighter collaboration among our teams. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts on our industry – particularly in how it has upended distribution and the ways in which audiences are consuming content – accelerated the efforts in implementing this restructure. Ultimately, these changes will better position us as a studio for when we come out of this pandemic.

With the consolidation, unfortunately some positions in the U.S. marketing and distribution teams have been eliminated. Those employees impacted have been notified and we sincerely thank them for their many excellent contributions.

We look forward to working with our teams and all of you over the coming days as we put these changes into action.

Josh and Keith

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Sundance Institute Expands Board With Diverse Group of 7 New Trustees

The Sundance Institute on Monday appointed seven new members to its Board of Trustees, bringing it to a 32-person board that is evenly split between men and women and features 10  who identify as people of color, including six who identify as Black.

The newest members are Kimberlé Crenshaw, Ann Lewnes and Wonya Lucas, who join the board alongside Uzodinma Iweala, Amanda Kelso, William Plapinger and Junaid Sarieddeen, all of whom joined over the last year. While the Sundance Institute board typically includes 24-28 members, it expanded this year to add new members and to replace three members whose terms had expired.

The new trustees will work closely with Board chair Pat Mitchell and executive director Keri Putnam in shaping the business, cultural and philanthropic goals of the organization in an advisory capacity.

Also Read: Sundance Institute Hires Gina Duncan in New Role as Producing Director

They join current members on the Institute’s Board: Robert Redford, president & founder; Pat Mitchell, chair; Jeanne Donovan Fisher, vice chair; Ebs Burnough, vice chair; Sean Bailey, Ritesh Batra, Jason Blum, Lisa-Michele Church, Kenneth Cole, Pascal Desroches, Fred Dust, Philipp Engelhorn, Caterina Fake, Robert J. Frankenberg, Donna Gruneich, Cindy Harrell Horn, Charles D. King, Lisa Kron, Lyn Davis Lear, Gigi Pritzker, Alejandro Ramírez Magaña, Amy Redford, Geoffrey K. Sands, Nadine Schiff-Rosen and Lynette Wallworth.

“We are so grateful to welcome the expertise and unique perspectives of Kimberlé, Uzodinma, Amanda, Ann, Bill, and Junaid to Sundance as we move forward in this challenging time,” Mitchell said in a statement. “Our board possesses the right skills, a broad range of talents and a high level of commitment to our founding values and ethics to guide the organization’s mission oriented work in supporting emerging artists around the world and connecting audiences to their stories.”

The full bios for the seven new members are listed below:

Kimberlé Crenshaw is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of the African American Policy Forum, and the founder and Executive Director of the Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies at Columbia Law School. She is the Promise Institute Professor at UCLA Law School and the Isidor and Seville Sulzbacher Professor at Columbia Law School. She is popularly known for her development of “intersectionality,” “Critical Race Theory,” and the #SayHerName Campaign, and is the host of the podcast Intersectionality Matters!, a columnist for The New Republic, and the moderator of the widely impactful webinar series Under The Blacklight: The Intersectional Vulnerabilities that the Twin Pandemics Lay Bare. She is one of the most cited scholars in the history of the law, and was named Ms. magazine’s “No. 1 Most Inspiring Feminist,” honored as one of the ten most important thinkers in the world by Prospect Magazine, and included in Ebony’s “Power 100” issue. Her groundbreaking work on “intersectionality” has traveled globally and was influential in shaping the South African Equality Clause. She has been a Visiting Professor at the Sorbonne and University of Paris; Centennial Professor at The London School of Economics; Fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University; and taught at universities in South Africa, Brazil, and Italy. She received her J.D. from Harvard, L.L.M. from University of Wisconsin, and B.A. from Cornell University, and sits on the boards of Sundance, VDay, and the Algorithmic Justice League.

Uzodinma Iweala is an award-winning writer, filmmaker, and medical doctor. As the CEO of The Africa Center, he is dedicated to promoting a new narrative about Africa and is Diaspora. Uzodinma was the CEO, Editor-In-Chief, and co-Founder of Ventures Africa magazine, a publication that covers the evolving business, policy, culture, and innovation spaces in Africa. His books include Beasts of No Nation, a novel released in 2005 to critical acclaim and adapted into a major motion picture; Our Kind of People, a non-fiction account of HIV/AIDS in Nigeria released in 2012; and Speak No Evil (2018), a novel about a queer first-generation Nigerian-American teen living in Washington, D.C. His short stories and essays have appeared in numerous publications like The New York Times Magazine, Vanity Fair and  The Paris Review among others. Uzodinma was also the founding CEO of the Private Sector Health Alliance of Nigeria, an organization that promotes private sector investment in health services and health innovation in Nigeria. He sits on the boards of the Sundance Institute, The International Rescue Committee and the African Development Bank’s Presidential Youth Advisory Group. A graduate of Harvard University and the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and a Fellow of The Radcliffe Institute at Harvard University, he lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Amanda Kelso is passionate about technology and storytelling, and how together they can shape communities. She has spent the last 25 years serving as a creative communications and brand leader for global tech companies as well as lending her skills to non-profit organizations and startups. Amanda’s tenure includes helping to foster and oversee the stewardship of Instagram’s community of more than one billion people, serving as the Managing Director of Google Creative Lab, and providing creative digital leadership at Goodby Silverstein & Partners and West Ventures. While the majority of her career has been working in a creative capacity in the technology sector, early in her career she worked on television productions including Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Amanda holds a BA in Film from Columbia College at Columbia University and is an incoming DCI Fellow at Stanford University. As an advocate for independent storytellers, in addition to being a trustee of the Sundance Institute, Amanda is also a member of the Producers Guild of America’s New Media Council, and a judge for the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences. Work she has produced has been recognized by Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity, SXSW, D&AD, Clios, One Show, The Jim Henson Technology Honor, and Communication Arts. Amanda recently co-published a public meditations project encouraging people to take time out of their busy days to meditate.

Ann Lewnes is Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of Adobe, a position she has held for over a decade. Under her leadership, the Adobe brand has become synonymous with creativity, digital marketing and the design and development of transformative digital experiences. In addition to its consistent focus on creativity, Adobe’s marketing organization pioneered the shift to digital – deploying advanced digital marketing technology, establishing an insight-driven culture, and setting a template for marketing’s impact on business. Prior to Adobe, Ann spent 20 years building the iconic Intel Inside brand as VP of Marketing. Forbes has recognized her as one of the top CMOs in the world, Ad Age has named her one of The Creativity 50 and she was inducted into the American Marketing Association’s Hall of Fame in 2019. Ann received her B.A. in Political Science and Journalism from Lehigh University. She currently serves on the board of Mattel and is an active participant in the Sundance Catalyst program. Believing everyone has a story to tell, Ann is a strong advocate for empowering diverse creators, including women, youth and other under-represented groups.

Wonya Lucas is president and chief executive officer of Crown Media Family Networks. Lucas oversees the company’s portfolio of entertainment brands, including linear networks Hallmark Channel, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, and Hallmark Drama; and subscription video on demand service Hallmark Movies Now. Lucas is based in the company’s Studio City office and reports to Mike Perry, president and chief executive officer of Hallmark Cards, Inc. Formerly, Lucas was president and chief executive officer of Public Broadcasting Atlanta, where she oversaw Atlanta’s NPR (WABE) and PBS (ATL PBA) stations. Previously, she was president and chief executive officer of TV One. Prior to joining TV One, Lucas held several positions at Discovery Communications, including executive vice president and chief operating officer for Discovery Channel and Science Channel, and global chief marketing officer, which entailed oversight of marketing in 210 countries. Before joining Discovery Communications, Lucas served as general manager and executive vice president of The Weather Channel Networks with responsibility for corporate strategy and development and strategic marketing for The Weather Channel and . Previously, she spent eight years at Turner with roles including senior vice president of strategic marketing for CNN Worldwide; vice president of business operations and network development for Turner Entertainment; and vice president of entertainment marketing for TNT. Lucas also spent several years in brand management for The Coca-Cola Company and Clorox. Lucas received an MBA in Finance and Marketing from Wharton and BS Industrial Engineering from Georgia Tech.

William Plapinger was a partner for almost three decades (and is now Senior Counsel) at the global law firm Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, and has dedicated most of his time since 2012 to the not-for-profit sector, primarily education, as well as conservation and the arts. Plapinger’s legal practice focused on corporate finance and M&A in more than 30 countries, with particular emphasis on large, complex, financial transactions, many of which were the first, largest or most significant of their kind.  He was resident in the firm’s London office for 25 years, and had both firm-wide and regional management responsibilities, including as managing partner of that office, coordinator of the firm’s European offices, and a member of the firm’s Managing Partners Committee. In the education sector, he is a member of the boards of directors of The Posse Foundation and Global Citizen Year, and formerly was the chair of the board of trustees of Vassar College for 12 years, a Commissioner on the U.S.-U.K. Fulbright Commission, a trustee of the American School in London, and a director of the Conference of Board Chairs of Independent Liberal Arts Colleges.  Over the last several years, he has worked with partners on an innovative venture to provide affordable financing to African students at the world’s leading universities. In the conservation sector, he is a member of the board of directors of Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation, the largest private land trust on Martha’s Vineyard, MA, and in the arts sector, in addition to being a member of the board of trustees of the Sundance Institute, he was a co-founder and member of the board of directors of the American Friends of the British Museum. Plapinger is a graduate of Vassar College and New York University School of Law, attended Westfield College (University of London), and was a Fellow in 2013 and 2014 in the Advanced Leadership Initiative at Harvard University.  He and his wife of almost 40 years, Cassie Murray, split their time between Martha’s Vineyard and New York City, and have three grown children.

Junaid Sarieddeen is a theatre actor, director, dramaturge, and a founding member of Beirut-based Zoukak Theatre Company (2006). He has directed several theatre plays with Zoukak and other artists including, “Ish Ibka…” (2007), “Lucena / Obedience Training” (2013), “Heavens” (2014), “The Jokers” (2017), and “36 Abbas street, Haifa” (2017). As a dramaturge, Junaid worked on several theatre and dance performances, including “Mahalli” (2012), “Fatmeh” (2014), “Leila’s Death” (2015), “May he rise…” (2017) and “NIGHT” (2019), and performed in more than 20 productions in the past fourteen years, touring in multiple cities and festivals around the world. He is a trainer on the use of theatre in various educational, social, and psychosocial contexts, and since 2016, a fellow artist of the Sundance Theatre Program where he took part in various Theatre Labs, both as a director and dramaturge in the USA and the MENA region. Establishing Zoukak has provided Junaid a broad experience in art direction, curating cultural events and festivals, in addition to the knowledge in the management of non-governmental and cultural associations. He was a member of several initiatives focusing on cultural policies and other social and cultural issues in Lebanon including, censorship, public space, cultural heritage, and history. For its artistic and social engagement, Zoukak received the Ibsen Scholarship award (2012), the Anna Lindh Foundation’s Euro-med Dialogue Award for social resilience and creativity (2014), the Honorary Citizenship of the City of Palermo (2017), the Praemium Imperial Award for Young Artists from the Japan Arts Association (2017), the Chirac Foundation Award of Culture for Peace (2017) and the Ellen Stewart International Award (2018). Junaid holds a BA in Theatre and a BA in Philosophy from the Lebanese University. At present, he is pursuing his Masters at the Saint Joseph University in Beirut.

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‘SNL': Adele Can’t Stop Cracking Up at Kate McKinnon Saying ‘Tribesmen’ (Video)

One of the fun things about watching live programming is seeing actors break character in response to something that happens during the performance. And an absolutely delightful example of this came during the latest episode of “SNL” when host Adele kept corpsing at cast member Kate McKinnon’s jokes during a very weird late-hour sketch.

The sketch, which appears to be a parody of the pop culture convention of white women who go on international journeys of sexual discovery after heartbreaks — like “Eat, Pray, Love” or the 2019 romantic comedy “Holiday in the Wild” — featured McKinnon and Adele as recently divorced women in a purported Africa tourism commercial. But as the sketch went on, it was obvious the primary selling point of the tourism was the chance to hook up with extremely hot guys in Africa.

Basically, Adele and McKinnon would list off the attractions that are awaiting people who visit the second largest continent, such as the incredible music, beaches, or scenery. But occasionally, McKinnon would say “tribesmen,” often as extras would walk into the frame, indicating tourists were hooking up with the locals. McKinnon would put an extra breathy emphasis on the word “tribesman,” and that appears to be something Adele found hilarious because it consistently made her crack up.

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For example:

McKinnon: Sun
Adele: Breeze
McKinnon: Ocean
Adele: Mountains
Together: And beautiful, beautiful Africa
McKinnon: Witness the wonder, the escape, the story.
Adele: The sandy beaches, the massive bamboo
McKinnon: The wildlife, the culture
Adele: The food, the nightlife

At that, Adele started to lose it, and ended up involuntarily chuckling through her next lines, which were “the history, and lush dangling foliage.” There’s plenty more of course, including the appearance of Heidi Gardner late in the sketch. But you don’t need us to transcribe the whole thing, you’re just here for the Adele laughing. And you can see that for yourself at the top of the page right now.

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A New Chinese Broadband Satellite Constellation

Can we afford the wasted capacity and idle investment of SpaceX satellites remaining dormant while flying above China and GW satellites remaining dormant while flying above the US?

In an earlier post, I described three Chinese low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellite constellations that seemed to be oriented toward broadband communication.

  • Hongyun, which plans 864 satellites and will emphasize service in China's remote regions.
  • Hongyan, which plans around 320 satellites, seems to be looking at applications like maritime, aviation, and mobile backhaul service.
  • Galaxy Space seems to be focused on 5G backhaul and Internet of things applications.

None of those companies seem to be pursuing the global consumer market that SpaceX and OneWeb hope to serve, but a new Chinese company code-named GW seems to plan on doing so.

GW has filed a spectrum application with the International Telecommunication Union for two constellations with the cryptic names GW-A59 and GW-2. They requested permission to use the following frequencies:

  • 37.5-39.5 GHz (space-to-Earth)
  • 39.5-42.5 GHz (space-to-Earth)
  • 47.2-50.2 GHz (Earth-to-space)
  • 50.4-51.4 GHz (Earth-to-space)

for communication with 12,992 satellites:

The size of the constellations implies an intention to compete in the end-user broadband service market. Where might they fit in that market segment? In a recent podcast, consultant Blaine Curcio pointed out that a long history of government infrastructure investment has left China with a strong terrestrial network. Hongyan might be able to serve much of the remaining domestic market, but with 12,992 satellites in orbits ranging from 30 to 85 degrees inclination, GW seems to be interested in the global market where they would compete with SpaceX and OneWeb. (Telesat will also compete in these markets but is focusing on mobile backhaul and hotspots for education, telemedicine, and community access).

SpaceX, which is off to the fastest end-user start, is focusing initially on the lucrative markets of North America, followed perhaps by Europe. OneWeb would seem to have an advantage in the Asian and African nations where part-owner Bharti has a presence, as well as the United Kingdom, due to the government's stake in the company. GW would be in a strong position in the nations where China already has "Digital Silk Road" (DSR) projects, as shown below.

DSR IT infrastructure projects as of 12/2018 (source)

The DSR is part of China's ambitions Belt and Road initiative with infrastructure projects in around 70 nations. In late 2016 they added space infrastructure — the Belt & Road spatial Information Corridor. While they are currently concentrated in Eastern Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa, I've speculated that the DSR may extend to Latin America.

Over half the people in the world live in or near China and India. Many of those have no connectivity, and some are paying very high rates for geosynchronous satellite service. If the LEO satellite business works out, there is room for GW, OneWeb, SpaceX, Telesat, and others.

I have painted a speculative picture of a politically bifurcated LEO Internet with GW serving one set of nations and SpaceX and OneWeb others, but I am certainly not endorsing that future. Satellite constellations are, by definition, global, and we are facing massive global challenges today. Can we afford the wasted capacity and idle investment of SpaceX satellites remaining dormant while flying above China and GW satellites remaining dormant while flying above the US?

Written by Larry Press, Professor of Information Systems at California State University


What Became of the ARCOS Undersea Cable Connection to Cuba?

Proposed 56km link between the ARCOS undersea Cable and Cuba (TeleGeography Submarine Cable Map)

Will Trump kill the proposal before the election?

Cuba's primary connection to the global Internet is through the ALBA-1 undersea cable linking landing points on the south-east shore of the island to Venezuela and Jamaica; however, the bulk of Cuban traffic originates in Havana which is on the north-west coast. Traffic from Havana and other cities in the west travels over a backbone to reach the cable landing points. A landing point near Havana would reduce the load on the backbone, speeding connections, providing redundancy, and saving capital investment.

At one time, there seemed to be bipartisan support in the U.S. for improving Cuban Internet access. During his second term, President Obama pursued detente with Cuba, and much of that effort was focused on the role of the Internet and undersea cable connectivity was part of the plan. Daniel Sepulveda, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and U.S. Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy, who led two U.S. government delegations to Cuba during the Obama administration, said there were at least a half-dozen proposals — from U.S. and non-US companies — to construct a north-south undersea cable between the U.S. and Cuba. There had even been discussion of one day allowing Cuban access to the US cable at Guantanamo, GTMO-1.

At first, Trump seemed to agree — consider the following timeline:

  • October 20, 2017, The State Department issued National Security Presidential Memorandum, NSPM-5, stating that it was our policy to "Amplify efforts to support the Cuban people through the expansion of internet services" and directing government departments and agencies "to examine the technological challenges and opportunities for expanding internet access in Cuba."
  • January 22, 2018, The State Department established a Cuba Internet Task Force "to examine technological challenges and opportunities for expanding internet access in Cuba." (Disclosure — The Task Force formed two sub-committees and I was a member of both).
  • July 23, 2018, The consortium that owns the ARCOS cable applied to construct a branch from the cable to an ETECSA supplied cable landing spot in Cojimar, Cuba.
  • August 10, 2018, The FCC found the application "to be acceptable for filing and subject to the streamlined processing procedures" obligating them to take action "within forty-five (45) days" unless upon "further examination" the application is "deemed ineligible for streamlined processing."

Well, it seems the application must have been deemed ineligible since as far as I know nothing happened until earlier this month when The Committee for the Assessment of Foreign Participation in the United States Telecommunications Services Sector (CAFPUSTSS), which Trump established in an executive order on April 4, 2020, notified the FCC that it is planning to conduct 120-day security reviews of the ARCOS application.

I reached out to the FCC and the attorney who filed the request for the cable branch to ask why the application had not been acted upon but got no reply. I can think of two possible explanations:

  • Trump changed his policy with respect to Cuban Internet connectivity without, as far as I know, telling anyone.
  • Trump held this application up in order to grab a Florida headline between now and the election when the CAFPUSTSS rejects the application showing how tough he is on Cuba in an effort to win Cuban and Venezuelan votes.

I'm unfamiliar with FCC procedures and workflow — is there another explanation?

Finally, note that on March 15, 2018, Deep Blue Cable Inc. applied for a Caribbean cable with 19 landing points. While none of those were in Cuba, they planned a second phase with two Cuban landing points, but the Deep Blue application was withdrawn on November 11, 2019.

Written by Larry Press, Professor of Information Systems at California State University


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